New York Auto Insurance: Radar Detector Law & Legalities

By Insurance.com Posted : 02/19/2007

Thanks to rapid advances in technology, speeding -- or perhaps more accurately, avoiding speeding tickets -- is big business in the United States. The "Fuzzbuster" technology of the 1970's has evolved into a dizzying array of radar detectors, laser detectors, scanners, jammers, and stealth coatings designed to elude law enforcement officials. In fact, recent estimates suggest that over 10 percent of all drivers employ some sort of "radar-busting" technology on our nation's highways.

Are "radar busters" like these legal? The answer in New York depends on the type of technology you use and how you use it.

Radar & Laser Jammers
Under New York law, the use of radar and laser jammers is illegal. It is also a felony under federal law to jam or attempt to jam police radar signals. Many states also criminalize the mere possession of a radar jammer, so it is best to avoid such products altogether.

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Laser jammers, on the other hand, are not banned by either federal or New York law at this time. However, check all local laws before trying a laser jammer, since their use, sale, and possession are banned entirely in several states (CA, CO, IL, MN, UT, and VA).

Police Scanners
The use of police scanners is illegal in New York without a permit (see New York Scanner Laws.)

Stealth Coatings
To date, neither New York nor any other state has banned the use of stealth coatings to impair the ability of police LIDAR laser guns ("Light Detection and Ranging") to obtain an accurate speed reading of a vehicle. Stealth coatings first gained notoriety due to their defense applications (such as with the Stealth Bomber). Their efficacy on the roadways, however, remains to be seen-"although some testers claim that stealth coatings can reduce laser gun sensitivity by over 60% (see the RadarBusters Stealth Coating tests).

Radar & Lidar Detectors
Under federal law, the use of radar and lidar detectors is illegal in all commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds (see an overview of radar and laser detector laws). For all other purposes, radar and lidar detectors are legal in New York.

In light of the obvious conflict between speeding laws and radar detector use, law enforcement officials, safety advocates, and insurance companies continue to lobby legislators nationwide to ban the use of radar and laser detectors altogether. Thus far, they have only been successful in banning radar detector use in Virginia, Washington D.C., and on U.S. military bases.

Some speculate that one of the reasons that legislatures have been loathe to ban consumer use of radar detectors is that such bans could expose the inaccuracy of radar and laser-based speed detection systems. Independent studies have shown that radar and laser guns are susceptible to technical and operator error, leading some radar detection advocates to claim that over 25% of all radar-based speeding tickets are generated in error (see Radar and Laser Gun Mistakes). Some of the more common reasons for errors include:

  • Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) from sources such as radios, garage door openers, and police radar
  • Cosine errors generated by an inappropriate angle of the gun to the target
  • Mechanical errors caused by guns overheating or being out of alignment

Regardless of the accuracy of speed detection systems or the legality of radar detectors, one fact remains crystal clear in New York-"speeding is against the law. Accordingly, the best advice is for New York drivers to rely on their common sense, rather than technology, when assessing the proper speed for the prevailing road conditions. For more information on safe driving in New York, please visit the New York DMV site. If you're interested in learning more about radar detectors, please visit the RadarBusters.com Buyer's Guide.

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